Saturday, April 18, 2015

New Mask for Isis

I have been re-making some of the Goddess masks, and this is a new mask devoted to Isis, the Great Mother of Egypt, whose wings protect and bear to the heavenly realms so many ancient paintings of Egyptian nobility, who is the mother of the Sun, Horus, in whose honor Paris was named (Par Isis), who may be the origin of both the Black Madonna, as well as the original Angel........I hope this mask will serve as my offering.

Below is a lovely prayer to Isis I found on the internet, graciously offered by a devotee.

Celestine Starr as Isis, 2005

Monday, April 13, 2015

"Before the Deluge", .........Celebrating Jackson Brown

Every generation has its great singers, its heart movers, an Orpheus who can move you to tears with their words and their songs...........JacksonBrowne has been one of those singer poets for me, along with Robin Williamson and Leonard Cohen......people whose songs will no doubt be with me until the end.    This post is sheer indulgence for me, and thanks to the technology of UTube and the generosity of Blogging, I can come back to these favorite songs again and again.  

Like Leonard Cohen, Jackson Brown has always been bitter sweet, infused with both pragmatism and a deep mysticism, sad, ironic and celebratory  at the same moment. Everything, as Cohen pointed out, "has a crack in it - that's how the light gets in".  

Thank you, Jackson Brown.  for a dancer  In the shape of a heart  the pretender

Friday, April 10, 2015

The Artist's Oracular Cook Book

Art = Magic.
Art heals.

Image by Catherine Nash

"It seems to me that a creative act, in any field of endeavor,  really does, after you take a good look around, have to begin with a leap of faith.  Maybe being alive at all is a profound leap of faith.  Faith in yourself, faith in some greater web of minds and being and continuum you are a part of that will catch you when you in the sheer beauty  of the process, faith in what you'll learn from it when you're (theoretically) "done".
I've been applying for residencies this coming summer, feeling a deep need to get  on the road for a while, and to be somewhere where I can again be in Flow, to open to the creative energies within and without once more.

Among them I applied to the magical IPark, near Devil's Hopyard park, in Connecticut.  In 2005, when I was last there, at  I Park Artist's Enclave it was the custom for residents to leave behind  a  recipe for a cocktail. Because I spent a month utterly blissed out in a creative fury there, my contribution was the "Artist's Oracular Cook Book", cards I made with commentary on the back.   They later evolved into the Rainbow Bridge Oracle, but I still like them a lot.  They remind me that art is Magic, that art can heal, and that it really is basic and simple.

I put the collection away in a box a number of years ago, feeling it was naive and silly.  In taking a look at this little book from that magical month again, it's as if a fragrance has drifted in the window.   I realize I am revived -  a previous version of myself is giving the  woman I am currently a reminder. 

Open a door for Mystery.

And sometimes, the 

"As you come near the glass, she approaches from the other side to meet you. You lift your pen, and she raises hers to touch its tip in the other world. You begin to move your hand and words form on the glass on her side, on that other side. Patiently, you now follow her pen; you hear what she is writing, but dimly. You can see a little bit into the images she is creating. Can you read what she is writing?  Is the glass clearing, can you collaborate?"
 Felicia Miller

                                                                                       Sometimes  you are a beacon.

More than you can  imagine is possible
when you believe that it's possible.
Imagination is the confluence
 of possibilities

the Beginning Place

Be Contrary.

Be capricious, liminal,
walk the borderlands.

When you find yourself  making too much sense
try doing it 


When the Moon is full, allow yourself 
a heaping dose 
of lunacy.  

Develop night vision, 
the penetrating ability 
to see 

in an alternate
 kind of light.  

When the  Sun is shining,

in the dappled play 
of light and shadow, 
 the amazing 
rainbow palette
 of color, 
the purple taste 
of  grapes, lemon  grass, sweat, iridescent,
 gleaming words 
on a 
pristine page......


The beauty and mystery
 of nature  is always calling

In all the worlds
you have friends, 
visible and invisible, 

ever ready 
to collaborate

Accept the fallow times 
for what they are:

times of rest, 
 and renewal.
Pregnant times

(whether you're a woman or a man)
when you are incubating something  New

Respect your Demons.

They are worthy opponents.

They are there to test your valor, courage,  and ability to make decisions.  

They will force you to fight
for your vision, and
your heart.

Take good care of your work.

Nurture your  discoveries, and protect the children
of  your imagination.   

 Avoid people who talk you into being smaller
 than you really are.  And anyone, or anything, 
that wounds your enthusiasm.

Where there's Fear 
(or resistance)

there is Power

Light a fire 
in your mind
and heart.  

Don't let it go out.

Is your studio a
 Sacred Space?

Even if, for now, 
it's just a notebook, 
or a table.

Are your art works touchstones,
field notes,
and road maps
from a life-long journey
that sometimes
feels like a pilgrimage?

Strive for Balance.

The harmonious exchange
of creative opposites.

You will never lack 
for Grace.


With brush, voice, eye, hand, heart and mind, 
 at last 

we dance!

The Circle has No End.

(The top  image not my own - it was created by  Catherine Nash.)

Monday, March 30, 2015

A Blessing for all Makers



On the day when
the weight deadens
on your shoulders
and you stumble,
may the clay dance
to balance you.

And when your eyes
freeze behind
the grey window
and the ghost of loss
gets in to you,
may a flock of colours,
indigo, red, green,
and azure blue
come to awaken in you
a meadow of delight.

When the canvas frays
in the currach of thought
and a stain of ocean
blackens beneath you,
may there come across the waters
a path of yellow moonlight
to bring you safely home.

May the nourishment of the earth be yours,
may the clarity of light be yours,
may the fluency of the ocean be yours,
may the protection of the ancestors be yours.
And so may a slow
wind work these words
of love around you,
an invisible cloak
to mind your life.

~ John O'Donohue ~

(Echoes of Memory)

With many thanks to Susan Nowogradzki for sharing this poem with me............. 

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Interview with Coreopsis Magazine 2015

Vol 4 No. 1 Winter/Spring 2015
Earth Tales: The Challenge Ahead
Interview: Lauren Raine – Visionary
Profiled Artist
CJMT: What is the link to your site? Where can we see your work? as well as my blog
CJMT: What do you want the world to know about your work?
 I guess I would feel that I’ve succeeded if in some small way my work helps in the greater work of bringing reverence to the Earth, and to the arising of the Divine Feminine.
CJMT: Who – or what – do you see as your main influences?
 Early on I became influenced by the writings of Kandinsky (“Concerning the Spiritual in Art”) and others, and rejected what I saw as an aesthetic that disregarded spirituality and mysticism as being outside of “high art”. I find it ironic that spirituality was a significant impulse in the early development of Modernism. Theosophy, the Golden Dawn, Anthroposophy, as well as Einstein’s new physics, enormously inspired the work of such innovators as Mondrian, Kupka, Kandinsky, Arthur Dove, and others.
Later I discovered Joan Halifax (“Journey of the Wounded Healer”), met Alex and Allyson Grey (“The Sacred Mirrors”) and others, and began to think of art process in new terms. Art for healing, art for transformation of consciousness, art as a bridge between dimensions. During the 80’s I was involved with a group called the Transformative Arts Movement, and I even wrote a book based on interviews I did with visionary artists.
 Rachel Rosenthal developed a form of contemporary “shamanic theatre” that I found profound. I saw her perform Pangaian Dreams in 1987, and every hair on my body stood up. Sometimes, like a Sami shaman making the “yoik” she would allow sounds to come through her that were absolutely electric, sounds and words that charged the room. The Earth Spirit Community’s Twilight Covening introduced me to participatory ritual theatre and I made the Masks of the Goddess” collection for the Reclaiming Collective’s 20thAnnual Spiral Dance. I have great admiration for what these two groups have developed as ritual process.
CJMT: Much of what you do seems to tell a story – even the single, stand-alone pieces. Where do you think that comes from?
 The poet Muriel Rukeyser famously commented that “the Universe is made of stories, not atoms”.
I believe Native American mythology – and perhaps contemporary quantum physics – would agree with her. My patron Goddess is surely Spider Woman, the ubiquitous Weaver found throughout the Americas in one mysterious manifestation or another. Among the Pueblo peoples of the Southwest she was also called “Thought Woman” (Tse Che Nako). As a Creatrix she brought the world into being with the stories she told about it.
Myths and religions are stories, some more glorified, archetypal, literalized or contemporary than others. I think it is so important for artists of all kinds to recognize that we are weavers of the stories of our time, we are holding threads that recede behind us and extend beyond us into the future. We’re never weaving alone. So – what kind of stories are we shaping, collaborating with, how do we understand the gift of “telling the world” that Spider Woman has bestowed on us?
CJMT:  How would you describe your art…? (influences, history, school-of-art, your aesthetic) 
Perhaps “Cross disciplinary”? I seem to jump around a lot, from sculpture to ritual theatre to painting to…………….whatever seems to be the best medium of expression at the time. Different “languages”. I guess I could say that my art-making is my spiritual practice, whether it is done with community (as in theatre and ritual) or alone in my studio.
CJMT: What did you learn from working in theatre?
Being a visual artist is solitary, and I’ve always wanted art forms that were participatory, collaborative. Masks lead right into theatre, and questions about the traditional uses of masks as well. Masks are such metaphors – you can’t look at a mask, really look, without it suggesting some kind of being that wants to manifest through it. They are vessels for all kinds of stories.
 My colleagues (among them Macha Nightmare, Ann Waters, Mana Youngbear, Diane Darling) and I have developed some wonderful ways of working with masks and community theatre/ritual. In early Greek theatre a performance had three components – the musicians, the narrators or Chorus, and the masked performers, who would pantomime and dance the characters. We’ve often used that approach, particularly with a Theatre in the Round, a Circle.
 Because the masks are dedicated to the Goddess, we’ve brought neo-Pagan sensibilities to the ways we designed our performances. This can include creating a ritual entranceway so the audience enters a magical space, adding audience participatory components to the performances, calling the elemental Quarters and/or casting a Circle in theatrical ways, and concluding all performances with some kind of energy raising activity with the audience. In Wicca that’s called “raising the Cone of Power” and by so doing the blessing or overall intention is “released to do its work”, finishing with “de-vocation”, which is often a great conclusion with humor, or everyone gets up and dances, etc.
It’s actually very effective, and can be integrated as good theatre. For example, in “Restoring the Balance” (2004) we concluded with “Spider Woman”. While the music played and the narrators told the tale, “Spider Woman” wove invisible threads. With a rising crescendo of assistants, she wove a web with the entire audience. And indeed, for that moment of breathless intensity everyone in the theatre was literally connected, holding onto a thread “from the Great Web” with everyone else. The “Blessing” was experienced as part of the performance.
CJMT:  What would you like to say to other artists (of any genre)?

“Our job was not to just re-tell the ancient myths,
but to re-invent them for today. Artists are the myth makers.”
Katherine Josten,   The Global Art Project
 I agree entirely with Katherine Josten, who founded the Global Art Project in Tucson, Arizona – we are the myth makers of our time. So, what kind of myths are we disseminating? What are the new stories, how are the old stories still important – or not?
 We have become a global society, with a global crisis. I may sound like I’m preaching, but personally, I don’t want to experience any more art forms that are self-indulgent, nihilistic, violent forms that don’t further evolution into empathy in some way.
I’m not entirely comfortable when people speak of contemporary artists as “shamans” as I have too much respect for the long traditions of indigenous shamans, which have evolved within their particular cultures for thousands of years. But I do know artists can participate in healing and vision, and can find new contexts for creating new forms of what might be called contemporary shamanism.
I’d like to quote from a 1989 interview I did with the early performance artist, Rafael Montanez Ortiz. In the 80’s he studied energy healing, as well as working with some native shamans in the U.S. and South America. Raphael was also a great influence for me. In the conversation I recorded and transcribed, we were talking about what an “art of empathy” might be, and he spoke about his studies in native Shamanism:
“You feel what you do……….Within the participatory traditions found in (indigenous) art, there is no passive audience. That’s a recent idea, which is part of the compromise, the tears and breaks from art’s original intentions. Ancient art process was a transformative process; it wasn’t a show, it wasn’t entertainment.  We need to see ourselves again as part of a brilliant, shimmering web of life. An artist at some point has to face that issue. Is the art connecting us and others in some way, or is the art disconnecting us and others? I think it is not enough to just realign ourselves personally either – as we evolve, our art should also do that for others, and further happen outside of the abstract. It must be a process that in its form and content joins us with the life force in ourselves, and in others.” (1989)
CJMT:  Do you feel that the questions of the spirit influence what you do?
I think Spirit influences much of what I do, and I’m not alone in that by any means! There’s a many-layered conversation going on all the time when you open creative channels.
Working in the collective process of ritual theatre is always amazing. When you make a strong, vibrant container with performance that is alive and meaningful for the participants, then dreams and synchronicities abound, the “container” of the developing work becomes charged. “If you build it, they will come”.
I remember in Joseph Campbell’s “Power of Myth” interviews with Bill Moyers, he spoke about “invisible means of support”. I think we’re supported by quite mysterious sources all the time, and when an artist finds her or his “burning point”, or for that matter a group shares it, doors do seem to open where we did not think they would. 
CJMT:  Would you like to tackle your relationship to the fines artes?
Oh, I get a headache when I think about “the art world”! But I did get an MFA, I have been a part of it, and I’m probably unfair in my allergic reaction. It’s just that I think the premise of the “art world”, as it reflects capitalism, is way off from the original functions of art.
Of course artists need to be supported by their communities. But when art becomes an “investment” and value is determined as a financial commodity (witness some of those Sotheby Parke Bernet auctions) you enter into a form of “soul loss”. Within this construct there is no acknowledgement of the transformative dimension of art. The conversation is corrupted. People are taught to appreciate a work of art because it is hanging in a museum, or worse, it is “worth millions”.
I always cringe inwardly when I hear someone talk about a painting they have in terms of what they paid for it, or what they hope it may be “worth”. The real “worth” should be what pleasure, insight, meaning, and questions they derive from being in the presence of a work of art, from being able to live with it in some way.
I had a real revelation in Bali, where they really don’t have an understanding of what we call “being an artist” at all, let alone the rather “macho” myth of the alienated “great artist”. When I lived there, I found that virtually everyone made some kind of art, whether dance, offerings, music, etc., and virtually all of it was “dedicated to the Gods”. It all had a ceremonial/ritual purpose. Art to the Balinese is a way to pray.
They obviously make many things for money, including masks. But the “special masks”, the sacred masks, are kept in the Temples, commissioned and repaired by traditional Brahman mask makers. They are not made available for tourists except as they may be seen in performances of the traditional dramas such as the battle between light and dark represented by the dragon/lion Barong and the witch Rangda; after such uses they are “purified” with holy water before being returned to the Temple.
This revelation became an inspiration to create a contemporary, multi-cultural collection of “Temple Masks”.
That’s how I conceived of “The Masks of the Goddess” – as special masks dedicated to the Divine Feminine throughout world mythologies. 
CJMT:  A Couple of technical questions: 
a)   What is the process you undergo in creating a mask?
For the face masks I find a person with a face I like. Then I take a plaster impregnated bandage cast that becomes a plaster positive cast, and then I form the mask over that cast with a thin, flexible leather. The technique is very similar to the old Italian “del Arte” mask technique.
b)    How did you find *your* media and materials in the very beginning?
I’d like to think the masks found me. But I’m somewhat embarrassed to admit that in the very beginning I started making masks because I was broke. I was a jeweler at the Renaissance Faires and business was bad, so I started making masks hoping they would sell better. They did, and very soon they began to introduce me to a whole new world.
CJMT: What do you think the state of visionary art is today? 
There are some great visionary artists out there. Film in particular, with special effects technology, is quite astounding. Think about AVATAR – what an incredible feat, to create an entire cosmos in that way. The Life of Pi – astounding.
Ritual Theatre is an art form that is literally “visionary”, and I wish it was more widely experienced in mature, effective ways for audiences other than groups that are generally esoteric. As Americans, many feel we’ve lost our rituals by and large, or the ones we have don’t have much energy left in them. People are hungry for potent events that offer rites of passage, mythic enactment and immersion, and shared transpersonal, visionary experiences. It’s really a very ancient human heritage continually renewed.
I was thinking of a ritual I experienced with the Earth Spirit Community years ago close to Samhain, All Souls Day. We processed in the twilight through a field with candles into the ritual hall, accompanied by the distant sound of drums.
The final segment of the ritual involved everyone being seated on the cold floor, in a large dark room, and blindfolded. For what seemed like forever we heard distant voices, people brushed by us, hands moved us around, strange music was heard. It was powerfully disorienting, suggestive, and frightening. Then at last our blindfolds were removed, and we found ourselves in a room beautifully illuminated with candles. In the center of the room was a woman in white, surrounded with light, flowers, fruits, water – the Goddess herself, the “return of the light”. Finally, as we left we were greeted by figures with mirrors for faces: we beheld our own reflections.
I’ll tell you, you felt that experience! We had truly been “between the worlds”. When we left the ritual and gathered for food and drink, every one of us felt love for each other and joy for being alive.
CJMT:  Any final words? 
Here’s a quote I love:
“Stories are not abstractions from life but how we engage with it. We make stories and those stories make us human. We awaken into stories as we awaken into language, which is there before and after us. The question is not so much “What do I learn from stories” as it is “What stories do I want to live?” Insofar as I’m non-dual with my narratives, that question is just as much, “What stories want to come to life through me?
David R. Loy, “The World is Made of Stories